Heavily armed police, many of them in riot gear, marched on the Zuccotti Park in New York City today, arresting 200 people and clearing the park of Occupy Wall Street protesters. New York’s mayor Bloomberg defended the attack as a question of improving “health and safety conditions.”
It was the latest in a number of increasingly violent crackdowns nationwide, with a particularly ugly incident in Oakland leaving a former US Marine seriously wounded. From Atlantic to Pacific, aggressive crackdowns are becoming the rule, rather than the exception.
Is this simply a coincidence, with local officials reaching the same conclusion about the need to violently silence dissent at about the same time? Perhaps not, as indications are growing, fueled by comments from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, that the crackdowns came in a consultation with other mayors. This fueled speculation that the federal government might have been involved, which grew after a report that an unnamed federal official confirmed the Department of Homeland Security’s involvement. The Justice Dept has said the Oakland call only included mayors.
The Department of Homeland Security has been at the center of a series of policies since its creation that have left local police departments the nation over armed to the teeth and trained to adopt military tactics. The reaction to the Occupy protests sees these new military-style police forces taking their heavy-handed approach in response to rallies.
The DHS consultation and potentially its coordination of violent crackdowns is an alarming new policy, one which is liable to escalate as next year’s national elections draw close, with the hope of clearing at least the most visible reminders of a dissatisfied populace.